Note: This article is based upon the article "Mid-Fi Kings - HiFiMan Edition XS Review & Comparison” made by Sandu Vitalie on his website SoundNews and is printed here in partnership with SoundNews. The review was originally posted on January 15th, 2023. It has been edited for clarity and length. The HIFIMAN Edition XS and Moondrop Venus are available to purchase on Apos Audio.
A few years ago, HIFIMAN released their Edition X planar magnetic headphone, originally costing a pretty penny. Over time, they released units like Sundara and Ananda, but there was still a gap in the price bracket of $300-700 dollars. This is where Edition XS fits in with its $500 US price point. It has plenty of improved features compared to its predecessors, such as the use of stealth magnets for better wave guard directivity and much thinner super nano drivers. I’ll review the XS first and then compare it to the Moondrop Venus.
Regarding build quality, the headphones are lightweight. They have soft and thick ear pads that distribute the weight around the ears, and a soft headband. The structure, yolks, cup holders, and ear cup grills are made from metal, and the ear cups are made from a glossy hard plastic. My only concern with the headphones is the glossy hard plastic, but it's not a huge deal.
They are successors to a brighter model with improved magnets and drivers, offered at the original price of the Edition X. They have massive drivers in line with their Ananda, Arya, and HE1000se, stealth magnets for better waveguide directivity, and thinner drivers for faster decays and lower distortion. They have an impedance of 18 ohms and a sensitivity of 92 dB/mW, able to be driven by portable devices but sounding better with dedicated desktop headphone amplifiers.
My favorite headphones are those that are technical yet organic and natural-sounding. My number one headphone is the Hifiman Susvara, which is flawless. The Edition XS is trying to mimic that kind of sound. They are warmer, more fun-sounding, and are more mid-range and mid-bass forward. There is more oomph and bass synergy compared to other headphones I've listened to. They play all genres of music well, from Vivaldi to aggressive dark music. They are genre master headphones that get technicalities right while trying to sound close to the real thing.
Dynamics and transients
Let's go deeper into dynamics and transients. Personally, I like when my headphones are fast and impactful, giving me a healthy dose of dopamine. High performance headphones need to cover all our needs and drive like a Cadillac when needed. I'm happy to report that these headphones are both super fast and fun, with a playful mid-bass. You don't need the biggest and meanest headphone amplifier either as they work great with smaller, budget-based amplifiers like Topping and SMSL.
Another impressive thing about these headphones is the sound staging capabilities. They compare favorably to the Moondrop Venus. These headphones aim to mimic the sound of loudspeakers, using elongated drivers that cover the entire ear. The sound is open, wide and tall, with sounds seeming to hit the ceiling before reaching the ears. This is not common in regular headphones and provides a speaker-like experience. The imaging is clear and defined and even the notes playing in the background are fast, clear, and defined.
Detail retrieval is great for this price point, but it won't outperform higher-end headphones like the Arya Stealth or the HE1000SE. The Edition XS still provides enough information but if you want more, you can upgrade to the Arya Stealth. The resolving abilities are fine, and they don't become foggy or distorted at higher volumes even with less-than-perfect recordings.
There's a minor roll-off in the sub-bass below 30 Hertz by about 4dB. Immediately after that, the mid-bass region stands out as the most impressive part of the headphone. It highlights mid-bass notes even in soft tunes, blues, and jazz, due to its slight elevation. This makes the mid-bass groovy, fast, impactful, and clean with no distortion.
The mid-range is also quite nice, with a more linear response and no roll-off up to 1 kilohertz, making vocals fuller and more natural.
However, there is a small rise of 5dB at 8 kilohertz and a larger drop of 12dB at 5 kilohertz, making the treble not as bright as it could be. Overall, the treble delivery is extended, clean, and has plenty of shimmer and bite, but not as much as bright-sounding headphones.
I measured them and the raw frequency response shows mismatched drivers with dips and rises, particularly in the treble. There's also a small roll-off in the sub-bass and a tiny ringing in the bass region. Spectrogram shows low distortion with higher distortion in the sub-bass at around 84dB. Decay suggests a fast sound.
Vs the Moondrop Venus
Alright guys, let's compare the Edition XS to the Moondrop Venus, which is $100 more expensive. In terms of build quality and comfort, the Venus wins as it is well put together and comfortable for a longer period of time.
The Venus is crafted only from metal and leather, while the Edition XS feels cheaper with a few plastic pieces.
The Venus is also more sensitive and works better with portable devices.
In terms of technicalities, they both sound fast, clean, and spacious. However, the Edition XS sounds taller and closer to a speaker-like experience.
Tonality-wise, the Edition XS has better balance and sounds more natural with a wider variety of music. The Venus sounds lightweight and has softer bass and mid-range, and a hotter treble delivery. The Edition XS works better with aggressive music and has a more even delivery.
Overall, the Edition XS is a better headphone with a higher level of expertise and a better sound. It's easy to like and enjoy and can be a mood booster. For the price, it's hard to find something better-sounding. Hence, the Edition XS receives the highest Gold Award.